South Africa is firmly established as “one of the most exciting wine-producing countries on the planet”, thanks to a combination of old vines, young winemaking talent, established names, varied terroirs and a can-do spirit, according to award-winning British journalist and Master of Wine Tim Atkin, who has just released his seventh annual guide to South Africa.
In his 2019 report, Atkin has awarded 99 points to two wines – 2017 Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah and 2018 Sadie Family ’T Voetpad – and 95 points or more to a further 159 wines. “There was no 100-pointer this year,” he says, “but all of my top-rated wines are exceptional, reflecting the diversity and exceptional quality of the best of the Cape.”
Atkin highlights a number of challenges facing the wine industry, especially climate change and the continued unprofitability of many wine businesses. “The dams may be fuller than they were a year ago after the winter rains, but producers still need to think about what and where they plant in future,” he says.
“We are finally seeing the overdue emergence of a fine wine category, but too much wine is sold too cheaply for the long-term health of the industry. Winemakers need to pay more for their grapes and consumers need to recognise that South Africa cannot continue to be the world’s bargain basement.”
This year, Atkin singles out Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cinsault and Syrah for special praise, all of which are established varieties in the Cape, but also highlights the “enormous potential” of Albariño, Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Furmint, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Roussanne and Verdelho.
“Not before time, South Africa is expanding its palette of grapes,” he says.
Atkin’s 2019 South Africa Special Report is the product of three trips to the Cape over the last year, as well as further tastings in the UK. He has also named his overall wines and winemakers of the year:
- Winemakers of the Year: Eben Sadie and Paul Jordaan of The Sadie Family Wines
- Young Winemaker of the Year: Bernhard Bredell of Scions of Sinai
- Grower of the Year: James Downes of Shannon Vineyards
- Co-operative of the Year: Windmeul Kelder
- Winemaking Legend: Gyles Webb of Thelema Mountain Vineyards
- Best Cellar Door Experience: Creation
- Overall White Wine of the Year: 2018 Sadie Family ’Te Voetpad, Swartland
- Overall Red Wine of the Year: 2017 Boschkloof Epilogue Syrah, Stellenbosch
- Overall Rosé of the Year: 2019 Holder Dorper Elmie Rosé, Stellenbosch
- Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year: 2014 Graham Beck Cuvée Clive, Western Cape
- Overall Sweet Wine of the Year: 2016 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance, Constantia
- Overall Fortified Wine of the Year: 2017 De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve, Calitzdorp
- Red Wine Discovery of the Year: 2018 AA Badenhorst Ringmuur Cinsault, Swartland
- White Wine Discovery of the Year: 2018 Wolf and Woman Chenin Blanc, Swartland
- Best Value White of the Year: 2019 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape
- Best Value Red of the Year: 2018 Fairview Grenache Noir, Western Cape
- Best Value Rosé of the Year: 2019 Bon Courage Lady of the House Pinotage Rosé, Robertson
- Best Value Sparkling Wine of the Year: NV KWV Laborie Blanc de Blancs, Western Cape
- Best value Sweet Wine of the Year: 2017 Highlands Road Noble Late Harvest, Elgin
- Best value Fortified Wine of the Year: 2012 Allesverloren Fine Old Vintage, Swartland